Superman’s Cape

I am kind of tied up with my week old twins but wanted to post some-thing.  Here is a short story I wrote a couple of years ago called Superman’s Cape.  It may reek of self-indulgence, but it did inspire one of my tee shirt designs.  Anyway here it is:

“See that house there?” Bobby’s dad asked. “Your Uncle Bernie was born in that house.”

“You don’t say,” Bobby replied flatly as he stared out the car window at one split-level house after another in the sad, outdated neighborhood. From the looks of the homes, the residents seemed to be playing some sort of game of ceramic figurine tic-tac-toe in their bay windows with neighbors across the street, though it was impossible for Bobby to tell who was winning. He imagined the dull lives of the dull people who inhabited these dull houses and felt superior.

“You’ll never guess who lives their now,” his father continued.

“Who?” Bobby asked, hoping to hear names like Stephen King or Madonna, but willing to settle for Charo or Don Ho.

“Doctor Blum.”

Who?” Bobby asked again.

“Doctor Blum. Your mother’s dentist. Small world isn’t it.”

“I guess so.” Although Bobby thought the coincidence was just a result of people in this town staying in the same place their whole life.

“You know, he’s married to your cousin Lisa’s boss?”

“And let me guess, she was in a movie with Kevin Bacon,” Bobby was pretty proud of that one.

“What’s that?”

His dad’s hearing had been failing steadily for the past several years. Bobby used to think it was what his mother referred to as selective hearing, but now he was convinced it had more to do with the tufts of hair that had sprouted in his father’s ears over the past decade. Bobby had no formal medical training or any other basis for his observation, he was just in one of those moods where he had everything all figured out. But not in a ‘hey I’ve got everything figured out, let’s get something accomplished kind of way. It was more of a ‘hey, I’ve got everything figured out, so why bother’ type of thing. He knew the feeling well. “Nevermind,” was all he said.

Bobby continued to stare out the window, following the telephone wires from pole to pole. Oh what stupid conversations must buzz across those lines. If his mother had been there in the car, she would have no doubt reminded him that ‘nevermind’ was one of the rudest things you could say to a person who is hard of hearing. But Bobby didn’t care. He had neither the patience nor the desire to repeat himself or explain what he had said.

“Your mother and I are getting a divorce.” His father’s voice cut across the distance of the front seat.

It was Bobby’s turn to say, “What?”

“I said your—“

“—I heard what you said,” Bobby interrupted. “What do you mean you’re getting a divorce?” He imagined his words traveling from pole to pole along those criss-crossing wires he found himself staring at again. God, how he hated the sound of his own voice, and he wondered if it were the same for everyone or if there were people who actually liked their voice. He was sure there were plenty who never gave it a thought. They probably all lived in this neighborhood, where his Uncle Bernie was born, where his mother’s dentist lives, where his dad decided to tell him that he and his mom are splitting up.

Bobby’s father adjusted his glasses, a nervous habit, and started speaking. It seemed to Bobby as if he were talking to himself as much as to him. “Your mother and I,” he started, “It’s like we’ve never been on the same page as far as our relationship goes. We both want different things, have different expectations of each other. I mean, we still love each other, we have children together, we’ll always have that bond. We’re just different, that’s all. Different.”

Bobby scrutinized his dad’s face. He didn’t doubt anything that he said, he was just looking for something, some vestige of the superman that he used to see in him. But across the front seat from him, Bobby saw just another fucked up guy, a guy who couldn’t keep it together any better than anybody else. “So when did you two decide this?” Bobby felt contempt roll down his throat.

“Honestly, I guess it’s goin’ on about eight years now,” he looked at Bobby for some sort of reaction. “We just thought it would be better if we waited ‘til you and your sister were out of school.”

“Did you tell her yet?”

“Your sister? I think your mother talked to her about it sometime last week.”

He thought about how that conversation must have gone and wanted to scream. But he just didn’t feel up to giving his father the satisfaction of his emotion, his truth.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” The words sounded forced, almost ridiculous coming from his father. Bobby had seen this huggy-let’s-talk-about-our-feelings bit from him only once before, when his grandmother died, and he couldn’t pull it off then either.

Bobby swallowed hard. Was he supposed to thank him for waiting? “No, I just wanna go home.”

His father fiddled with his glasses, and Bobby resumed staring out the window. The steady, soothing landscape of split-level homes and telephone poles had been replaced by an open field. Running through the grassy park, Bobby spotted a man carrying a young boy. The child could have been no more than four years old. He was held high above his father’s head, his own arms outstretched like an airplane—a smiling laughing airplane. Bobby continued to stare at them as he rolled his window down. “Fuck you!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.

The father and son, pilot and co-pilot stopped in their tracks. Bobby’s dad depressed the accelerator and their car sped off around the bend.

copyright 2008

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